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The Heart of Winter

For those of you who do not enjoy this season, fear not –

we are past the worst. The winter solstice was yesterday, so the days are now getting longer. And Christmas is days away, so you might as well get in the spirit (the expression, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” comes to mind :)). One Christmas during my retail tenure,  I remember the store manager saying to us before we opened on December 24th, “Anyone saying they are ‘just looking’ today is deluded. Take them around the store until they have their whole list crossed off, and then you can send them to the pub once they have paid!” This was a bit focused on the capitalistic side of the holiday season, perhaps, but it has always reminded me to have a sense of humour about my obligations  and spirit of the winter festive season. I’m just not a “bah humbug” type of person, I guess.

In truth, I am a much bigger supporter of solstice celebrations in spirit. Perhaps it is my Icelandic roots, or maybe it comes from not belonging to any specific religious tradition, but I enjoy the celebration of winter and family and nature. If you are looking for new ideas to boost your enthusiasm this season, I recommend Circle Sanctuary‘s website. They have many ideas on planning a celebration. Food and drink is an integral part, of course (that always makes for a good party!).

It really comes down to making the most of it. By that I don’t mean look for the sales and put more under the tree or on the table. I mean take the time to bake one batch of cookies with a loved one, instead or worrying about making four kinds. Enjoy a meal in view of the Christmas tree and think of all the things for which we can feel grateful. Perform a random act of kindness, for no other reason than to see someone else smile. Wish someone a Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah when they bump you in the mall or steal your parking space. I guarantee you will feel less wintery and more festive. All of the cultures in the Northern hemisphere celebrate some kind of winter festival to make it through the cold and dark. Embrace the celebrations! (And what the heck, if you feel the best way to take part is to support the economy by shopping more, who am I to stop you? Fill your boots!)

And if you would like to make the most of tradition by using technology, guess what? They have an app for that!… check out this breaking news on experiencing the winter solstice at Stonehenge.

Just remember to pour yourself an eggnog before you start to fiddle around with it 🙂

The spirit of the season

I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who believes. I believe in a happy childhood, and I believe in wishing on a star, and I believe in Santa Claus. In an age when we seem to be duped or even ripped off on a regular basis, I think it is important to have something as a counter-balance, and the spirit of Christmas is mine.

Santa busy at work in his shop

Last night we had Santa visit our Girl Guide troop. Our girls are 12-14 (they are called Pathfinders), and they were helping younger girls (Brownies, aged 8-10) to write their letters to Santa. I am sure you can imagine some of the looks on faces when they heard the jingle bells coming down the hall. The younger girls stopped in their tracks for just a moment, and then many of them rushed up to him for a closer look. He was dressed not in his official suit but rather a pair of red coveralls under his Santa jacket. He told the girls he had heard they were having a meeting and talking about Christmas, so he thought he would stop by.

The girls asked him questions and he furnished them with simple answers.

– “Is Rudolph’s nose really red?” – – of course. That story has been told for a long time.

– “Do the elves celebrate Hallowe’en?” — yes, but it’s hard to tell, as they are dressed up all the time.

– “How old are you?” — How is your math? Do you know my birthday, December 6th? (St. Nicholas Day, of course!) I was born in the year 343.

– “Do the reindeer need to practice?”– yes, and they love to practice in the Okanagan, where they can fly over the lake and under the bridge in Kelowna.

– “Do you use magic?” — yes, but only when I need to, like getting through some of those new green, small chimneys

They took it all in, and when he told them how important it was to “be prepared” (the Girl Guide motto) they all nodded knowingly. He told them to keep being good, and that he would see them all soon. Then off he went, down the hall with the Pathfinders.

You see, the older girls were helping out by writing the replies for the Santa letters. So Santa was there to make sure they knew proper protocols. He told them it was important to not promise a particular gift; he said he often told kids,”If you do your best, I’ll do mine”. He told them that if anyone asked for a pet, he would always check with Mom and Dad first before making a delivery. But it was when he mentioned a special secret for gifts that might not arrive promptly that he got everyone’s undivided attention. He told the girls that he had an example this year of a handmade gift that looked like it would not arrive for Christmas. So, he was going to produce the letter mentioning the gift to show that he hadn’t forgotten. One of the girls then piped up, “So, are you the real Santa?” He smiled, and reached in his pocket. “Oh, darn,” he said. I left my driver’s license in the sleigh. (I will mention here that I have seen said license, and it does indeed say Santa on it.) This group of usually rambunctious teenage girls got unusually quiet and thoughtful. Santa closed by saying that including personal details in the letters was also important – he knows what school they go to, and what awards they have won, etc. Then he headed out, back to the workshop he said, and as he went out the door he told the girls they would feel good about what they were doing.

The letters they wrote were wonderful. They all added their own touches – one girl is a beautiful artist, so for her girl who loved cats she drew a kitty with reindeer antlers at the bottom of the letter. Another has literary talent, and her letter was lovely prose. They were all proud of their efforts, and wished they could see the girls’ faces when they read the letters. For my part, I was happy that these modern girls had experienced the true meaning of Christmas.

When I talked to my Mom this morning on the phone, she told me I should be proud of sharing my faith in such a spirit. I was certainly proud of the girls and I am happy to be a part of making sure that despite all efforts to the contrary, we maintain a belief in something positive.

I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas. May its spirit follow you into the New Year.

(If you need more encouragement to feel festive,check out the recipe page where I have posted a few more entries.)

It’s Beginning to Look a lot like…

Dare I say it? The lights are going up everywhere, and the displays in stores have now totally taken over. You could only excuse yourself for not knowing Christmas is coming if you have all electronic devices off and you haven’t left your house. At our place, even inside you can tell – it SMELLS like Christmas. By this point I have definitely joined in on the spirit of things. Who wants to miss out on the biggest festivities of the year?

I do like Christmas. And I won’t apologize for calling it that and not saying “Happy Holidays”. I fully respect those who celebrate Hannukah, Kwaanza, Eid al Fitr and all the other festive holidays that exist. I would expect they might offer their greeting to me. Since I enjoy Christmas, I wish them well on behalf of that holiday and I hope in the spirit of all of those named days we can all share a bit of communal good tidings and love. I think one of the reasons that children should lead the way in celebrating Christmas is that they want primarily to enjoy it and share, and that is the essence of the giving season in all cultures.

Rabbit Hollow smells like Christmas as soon as December looms on the calendar, as we host a block party every year with numerous desserts for our friends and neighbours. (Some would call it bribery – I say whatever works; we all enjoy the company and the goodies!) We like to share the stories of the year, and a bit of good cheer. We also take the time to donate to the Food Bank as well, for those who are less fortunate. Having something on the table to share is at the heart of the holiday season.

There are many ways you can help in the community to share with others who have less, and this time of year does seem to remind us that giving is at least as good a feeling as receiving. I thought, in the spirit of the season, that I would offer a few ideas for you in the Kelowna area as you make your plans and do your shopping.

West Kelowna Community Food Bank – drop offs can be made at the old video store in the mall next to Save-On Foods. (community drives exist through local businesses as well)

Kelowna Community Food Bank – drop offs can be made at numerous locations and there are numerous community events – check out their website here for details

Salvation Army – watch for the kettle ringers in the area; their programs offer food and many other kinds of assistance to those who need it; see website for details

Kelowna Gospel Mission – they accept donations at their location in downtown Kelowna and online – click here for more details

If you can afford to give, then it will certainly be appreciated. But remember, even a kind thought will help us make the world a better place. Merry Christmas!

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